Polish Senator Suggests Expelling Israeli Envoy for Linking Ruling Party to 1968 Purge of Jews

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Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari speaks at observances marking the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, on January 27, 2018.
Israeli Ambassador to Poland Anna Azari speaks at observances marking the 73rd anniversary of Auschwitz in Oswiecim, Poland, on January 27, 2018.Credit: Czarek Sokolowski/AP

A Polish senator for the ruling party said Friday he would not shake hands with Israel’s ambassador and that he favors her expulsion from Poland for saying anti-Semitism was on the rise there.

Jan Zaryn said this during an interview with the wPolsce news site.

“If anyone today thinks to equate in any way the rule of the Law and Justice party to the persecution of Jews led by the communist party apparatus in 1968, or by the marshals, then I certainly will not shake hands with such a person. If this is done by the ambassador of a foreign state, then maybe we have to ask this lady to leave this country,” he is quoted as saying.

His comments about Anna Azari come amid a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Poland over anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. The crisis began with the passing of a law in January that criminalizes blaming Poland for Nazi crimes. Several Jewish groups said the law impedes open debate and risks censoring research. Some critics of the law said it whitewashes what they called Polish complicity.

These allegations unleashed a wave of anti-Semitic hate speech online and several real-life anti-Semitic incidents, which Azari last month condemned. According to the Never Again watchdog on anti-Semitism, the volume of anti-Semitic hate speech in Poland since January exceeds that observed in the preceding decade combined.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month called “outrageous” the remark of his Polish counterpart, Mateusz Morawiecki, who said in an interview that the Holocaust had not only German, Ukrainian and Polish perpetrators, but Jewish ones, too.

The United States has also publicly condemned Poland’s legislation on discourse about the Holocaust and, according to one report, is resolved not to host Poland’s senior leadership until the crisis is resolved.

Azari revisited this issue during a speech last week at an event in Warsaw commemorating the evnts of March 1968. That year, a student uprising that began over the expulsion of two Jews critical of communism from the University of Warsaw prompted a government-led campaign of anti-Semitic incitement that ended with the emigration of tens of thousands of Jews. They left their possessions in Poland and were stripped of their Polish nationality.

Since January, “it has been very easy to wake up and recall all anti-Semitic demons in Poland,” Azari said in the speech.

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